R.A. Salvatore, the New York Times best-selling author of dozens of Dungeons & Dragons novels, will co-write an all-new comics series, starting this summer. R.A. Salvatore, joined by his son and co-writer Geno Salvatore, will create the first original comics tale for his most famous character, Drizzt Do'Urden, in IDW's Forgotten Realms: The Legend Of Drizzt: Neverwinter Tales.
We spoke with R.A. and Geno Salvatore, along with IDW’s Denton Tipton, about this forthcoming series.
Wizards of the Coast: How did the Neverwinter Tales project come about: Was it the brainchild of the R.A. and Geno Salvatore? Denton Tipton at IDW comics? Or something mutual proposed between the two sides?
Denton Tipton: When we first started considering all the possibilities for D&D comics, Drizzt obviously stood out as one of, if not the most popular character. Drizzt has a long history in comics, but to our surprise the entire output was limited to adaptations of the novels. We wanted to do something original with the character, and the only way to do that and do it right is with R.A. Salvatore. Wizards of the Coast put us in contact, and we were thrilled to discover he wanted to write it himself, with the help of Geno, his son and collaborator on several young adult Drizzt novels.
R.A. Salvatore: I was skeptical at first—I always am when doing a project that will intersect with, or at least touch, the novels. My focus has to be the novels and I want to stay as close to the storyline as possible. But once we got together and talked it through, I saw that this would work.
Wizards of the Coast: When and where is this story taking place, in the context of the Neverwinter series?
RAS: Alongside it—that’s all I’ll say. Since the events in this series unfold before those three books are out, it would be irresponsible of me to say more!
Wizards of the Coast: Although we follow Drizzt and Dahlia, the protagonist is the dwarf, Thimbledorf Pwent. For those not familiar with the dwarf (known for his spiky armor and less than savory personal hygiene), can you introduce us to him. What led to his casting, so to speak, as focus for this story?
RAS: I’ve always loved Pwent, and given the events of the previous novels, it seemed like a great place to showcase him. Plus, he’s a very visual character, with the strange armor and so much attitude. He seemed like a great fit for a visual medium like comics. Who am I kidding? I just like writing Pwent.
Geno: I agree. Even the dialogue is fun when Pwent is involved. We knew Drizzt had to make his appearances, but side-characters have always been, for me, the reason that the Drizzt books have stayed fresh.
Wizards of the Coast: Fans of the most recent novel, Gauntlgrym, will remember that Pwent (and Bruenor Battlehammer) seemed to have met their demise in the namesake dwarven city. So what can you tell us about Pwent’s return to the storyline in the comic?
RAS: They didn’t “seem to” meet their demise; they met it. The beauty of storytelling is that you can go back and tell previous tales, and the double beauty of fantasy is that “seem to” is often the operative phrase. That said, there’s no retrofitting going on here. This is the (side) story as it unfolds. I was surprised when it went there—but I often am—and that, to me, is the fun of writing, the magic of writing.
Wizards of the Coast: Can you tell us about the writing collaboration—how was it to bring a new tale into comic form?
Denton: When I first began roleplaying in the early ‘90s, the first D&D branded book I read was The Crystal Shard. From there I gobbled up the rest of the Icewind Dale Trilogy and also the Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. It was an absolute thrill to get the chance to work with a person whose writing was such a big part of my youth. And it didn’t disappoint. R.A. developed the story with Geno, and my main contribution was helping them understand the finer points of storytelling in comics. Writing for comics is quite different from prose, but they took to the challenge and transitioned well into the medium.
RAS: Geno and I followed the same formula that worked so well for us with the Stone of Tymora trilogy of novels. We came up with the storyline together, and Geno did most of the actual writing. As with those novels, I wanted this to have a different voice than the typical Drizzt books—but not too different, and so I was there every step of the way, nitpicking, editing and doing some of the writing or scenery imagining. Also, since I’m still writing the Neverwinter novel series, Geno had to be agile. There were places where I could put the books around his work, but almost always, he was the one who had to adapt his stories to the twists that arose in the books.
Geno: That wasn’t hard, since the writer of those books was sitting next to me for almost all of the process.
Wizards of the Coast: R.A. and Geno Salvatore have previously collaborated on the Stone of Tymora trilogy, from the Wizards of the Coast’s Books for Young Readers. How have you managed that process between yourselves? Is there a collaboration of ideas, or one agreed upon outline that you both decide how to flesh out?
Geno: It’s as described in the previous question. The beginning is a collaboration, as we outline the story and come up with ideas. We both know what came before, but I might not be up to date on what’s currently being written. We decided early on that we needed one voice for those books, as with these comics. While I try to make that voice fit the Drizzt novels, I’ve been offered great latitude in telling the story with my own instincts.
RAS: You don’t hire or collaborate with talented and creative people unless you plan to let them be talented and creative. It’s really that simple. If Geno was supposed to be a stenographer, then what’s the point? I type as fast as he does. So this co-writing (with someone I completely trust, and in whose instincts I have great faith) is a great exercise for me, where I get to see Drizzt and friends through someone else’s eyes.
Wizards of the Coast: R.A. and Geno, can you tell us about your comic-book background—were there particular titles you follow or followed (and feel nostalgic for)?
RAS: I had quite a collection of comics when I was younger, everything from a massive collection of Peanuts books to The Fantastic Four. Sadly, I hadn’t kept up with the medium, and I was quite surprised when I jumped back in about a decade ago. I worked with a company called CrossGen to adapt some DemonWars stories, then with Devil’s Due, who had the Forgotten Realms license and did some great work on my early Drizzt novels, and on my DemonWars work. I was amazed, honestly, when I came back to comics to see how far they had gone in terms of storytelling.
Geno: I worked on both of those previous comic deals, mostly as an editor and consultant.
RAS: He knew the material better than I did. The kid doesn’t forget anything. Scares me.
Geno: I agree with the progress of the storytelling. Watchmen was brilliant, and there are so many more.
Wizards of the Coast: For a collaborative project, are there arguments alone the way? Is it especially contentious, writing as a father and son, or does it make things that much easier (as opposed to collaborating with a stranger)?
RAS: Discussions all the time, but never arguments.
Geno: Drizzt is his world. He just lets me play there.
RAS: It’s more than that, though. Geno has been reading Drizzt for many years, and we often discuss the books. He and his brother served as first-readers/editors on many of them, which led to in-depth conversations about why I was doing something a certain way, or why other things weren’t happening in the books. I learned as much as they did in those discussions, to be sure. And in those talks, Geno “got” what I was trying to do with the Drizzt series.
Geno: So basically we’ve been pretty much on the same page through all of this.
Wizards of the Coast: For Denton, what stage in the process are you taking R.A. and Geno’s story and translating it into comic form? Is there give and take along the way (were there any ideas in early drafts that needed to be revised)?
Denton: Actually, R.A. and Geno are delivering full comic scripts, so there’s very little translating on my part. What you see in the comic couldn’t be any closer to their ideas and vision in their heads. There is always some give and take in collaborations such as this, but there weren’t many major revisions. I think the toughest part was balancing the story between Drizzt and Pwent. This is a Drizzt comic, but it’s very much Pwent’s story.
Wizards of the Coast: Do you all find writing for a visual medium that much more challenging, or does it better facilitate the kind of story you want to tell?
RAS: Different, but not more challenging. In some ways it’s harder, because the pictures I’m painting have to make sense, but in others the art does a lot of the work for me.
Geno: I prefer it. My preferred medium is film. Also, since I’m working as a narrative designer for 38 Studios, helping to flesh out a massive game world, this is much the same thing.
Wizards of the Coast: In this comic, we see learn that Pwent has taken (or been dragged down) a dark path. Is there a chance for resolution for him, or is this an intentionally darker storyline you wished to explore?
Geno: Dark paths are wonderful to explore. Traveling a road like this gives me the room to look at other sides of nature, of emotion and of anger, even. Since so much of the comic experience takes place in the reader’s mind, these unexplored trails, or roads least taken, are great vehicles for pushing the envelope.
RAS: No spoilers from me. It is what it is... let your imaginations soar as you read it and find your own resolutions. Maybe I’ll come to the same place, maybe not. Maybe I’ll address it further after the comic series, maybe not.
Wizards of the Coast: If the comic picks up after Gauntlgrym, where does the story lead us—do you view the comic as a side trek independent of the novel series, or does it lead directly into Neverwinter?
RAS: I originally thought it picked up directly after Gauntlgrym, but alas, the best laid plans of mice and authors. The story of that series told me that this needed to be placed a bit differently—saying when might spoil a book or two yet to come, so that’s all I can reveal on timeline. As for continuing, either through the books or through more comics, I can’t say because I don’t know. I never know—that’s the fun of it.
For more information on the Legend of Drizzt, head to the IDW site. You can also follow the story in the recent novel, Gauntlgrym, and in the forthcoming novel, Neverwinter.
The Neverwinter Experience
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The Critical Hit
Before we leave today, on the subject of Drizzt and cartoons, we offer the following from Scott Taylor and Jeff Laubenstein: